Women as Symbols: The Female Representation in East Asian Literature and Film of the 1930s and 1940s

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Women as Symbols: The Female Representation in East Asian Literature and Film of the 1930s and 1940s
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Martin Blahota, Charles University, Czech Republic (organizer, presenter)
Pei-yin Lin, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair,presenter)
Maya Hamada, Kobe University, Japan (presenter)
Hsiang-Ling Lee, Taiwan Film Institute, Taiwan (presenter)


This panel intends to explore the highly politicized nature of women’s representation in East Asia during the 1930s and 1940s. Scholars have already paid attention to “the question of women” in modern East Asia since the 1990s, however, this panel endeavours to reconceptualize this narrative by focusing on topics which have, so far, remained marginal. By exploring the overlooked images of women in literary and cinematic works produced during the wartime, this panel presents a means of mapping geopolitical contours in areas controlled by Japan or influenced by Japanese imperialism, namely in Manchuria, Shanghai, and Taiwan. Maya Hamada’s paper explores the representation of female students in Xiao Hong’s fiction. It demonstrates that Xiao’s mixed characterization of female students unveils the dilemma of new womanhood complicated by issues surrounding class and nationalism. Martin Blahota’s paper compares “modern girls” in early works of the Manchukuo writer Jue Qing with images of marginalized women in his later fiction. It suggests that the author used the females’ images as a tool for expression of his changing attitudes towards the colonial regime. Hsiang Ling Lee’s examination turns to visual identity and performative modernity of female characters in Bu Wancang’s historical films produced in Shanghai before and after the city’s complete Japanese occupation. Pei-yin Lin’s paper analyzes selected Japanese-language works by Zhang Wenhuan. It argues that his male protagonists’ envisioning of ideal woman can be taken as Zhang’s tactic to carve out space for his Taiwan-centric writing at the height of Japan’s wartime mobilization.